About Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a payment for people who are:
- 18 or older (16-17 in certain circumstances) but under State Pension age, and
- are on a low income or out of work.
It includes support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, and financial support for people with disabilities, carers and people too ill to work.
Universal Credit replaces the following six benefits and credits:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit (rental)
If your tenant receives any of the benefits that Universal Credit replaces and their circumstances change, they may need to move to Universal Credit from the date of the change of circumstances.
People may get Universal Credit when they are in work. The amount of Universal Credit they get will be based on their circumstances, including their earnings. If their earnings go up, their Universal Credit payment may reduce or stop.
What Universal Credit means for private landlords
Money for housing costs
If a tenant is entitled to Universal Credit housing costs, this amount is usually paid to the landlord each month. However some tenants can have the housing costs paid to them, if they meet certain criteria.
The amount of Universal Credit your tenant receives depends on their individual circumstances. The exact amount is calculated every month and may change. This is known as the assessment period.
The Universal Credit housing costs amount for your tenant is paid per calendar month.
Paying costs for two homes
Universal Credit can pay housing costs for two homes if any of the following apply:
- a tenant is liable for a second home because they have had to leave their usual home because of fear of violence. If this happens, Universal Credit can pay housing costs for both homes for up to 12 months, as long as there is an intention to return to their original home.
- a disabled person can’t move into a new home because it needs to be adapted. Universal Credit can pay housing costs for the current and new home for up to one month, as long as the tenant can show that the delay is reasonable.
- Where a household is split between two homes because of the size of the family, it can be treated as a single home and Universal Credit will pay housing costs for both. This is not time-bound.
If someone cannot live in their home while essential repairs are carried out, Universal Credit can only pay housing costs for one of the homes, not both.
If someone cannot move into accommodation immediately because they are in hospital or a care home, then the Universal Credit housing costs can be paid for the new accommodation for up to one month.
How payments are made to landlords
Universal Credit does not tell landlords when a tenant makes a claim, but will contact the landlord to get their bank details so housing cost payments can be made directly to the landlord. If landlords do not want to provide this information by phone, they can do so by requesting a direct payment to be set up.
Information about tenants cannot be given to landlords because of data protection laws which control how personal information is used by organisations, businesses or the government.
Tenants who can get help with housing costs
To get Universal Credit help with housing costs, a tenant must:
- pay rent for the property
- be liable for the property
- live in the property
A tenant is liable for a property when their name is on the tenancy agreement.
If a person living in a property is not named on the tenancy agreement but is paying rent to the landlord (for example, after their partner, who was the tenant, has died), they must provide evidence from their landlord which confirms that they must pay rent in order to continue living in the property.
A tenancy agreement should include:
- tenant and landlord’s name, address, contact details,
- property address
- start date of the tenancy and how long the term is for,
- amount of rent and how often it is paid,
- deposit amounts (if relevant) and
- signatures in all relevant places by all tenants and landlord (or agent)
Universal Credit doesn’t pay housing costs for people in exempt supported or temporary accommodation, for example a hostel. For more information go to: Northern Ireland Housing Executive
Help with eligible service charges
Private housing tenants could get help with eligible service charges if:
- they are liable for the service charges, and
- their tenancy agreement states that they must pay the service charges.
The service charges and cost of the service or facilities must be reasonable compared with other similar service costs in the area. Service charges the tenant can get help with include those for:
- maintaining the accommodation;
- general maintenance of shared areas;
- shared services, such as lighting and emergency lighting in communal areas; and
- specific charges for the accommodation, such as necessary domestic appliances owned by the landlord.
Information tenants must provide
If your tenant claims Universal Credit housing costs, they will need to give proof of their:
- service charges
Information landlords need to provide
As a landlord you have certain responsibilities to help your tenant make and manage their Universal Credit claim.
You should give your tenant a tenancy agreement and a letter confirming their housing costs. This should show a breakdown of housing costs, rent and rates as Universal Credit housing costs does not include an amount for rates. This will help verify your tenant’s housing costs more efficiently and quickly.
Universal Credit housing costs does not include money for rates
Registering a Landlord Rate Rebate account
If you are a private landlord and your tenant claims Rate Rebate, you need to register a Landlord Rate Rebate account online.
- A landlord only needs one Rate Rebate account.
- You can use the account to report tenancy changes to Land and Property Services (LPS) or complete certificates of occupation for tenants.
- Tenants can find out more information on Rate rebate scheme for people on Universal Credit
Report changes to your tenants rent/service charges
If you know of any changes that might affect your tenant's Universal Credit payments (for example changes in rent and/or service charges), you can help by reminding to update any new changes using their online Universal Credit account. These changes could affect their Universal Credit payment.
How Universal Credit is worked out
Universal Credit housing costs are based on the claimant’s circumstances on the last day of each monthly assessment period. The first assessment period begins on the date they submit their claim. It runs for a calendar month and the claimant will receive their first Universal Credit payment seven days after the end of their first assessment period.
Future assessment periods:
- start on the same date each month,
- end on the same date each month,
- all payments will be made by the same dates each month
A claimant makes a claim on 4th of July, so their assessment period ends on the 3rd August. The claimant will get their first payment by 10th August (i.e. 7 days after assessment period ends) and their next payment by 24th August. From then on will get their twice-monthly payments by 10th and 24th of each month.
If your tenant pays rent weekly, the monthly amount for housing costs is worked out by multiplying the weekly rent by 52 weeks (to get the total paid over a year) and dividing by 12 (to get the total paid every calendar month).
If your tenant pays rent every four weeks, every month or once a year, the calculations are:
- the amount paid every four weeks is multiplied by 13 and divided by 12
- the amount paid every three months is multiplied by four and divided by 12
- annual rent is divided by 12
Universal Credit is worked out based on rent being due every week in a year. If your tenant has rent-free weeks, the monthly housing costs are worked out based on the number of weeks rent is charged for. For example, if a tenant has four rent-free weeks, so they only pay rent for 48 weeks in the year, Universal Credit is calculated as the weekly rent multiplied by 48 and divided by 12.
How housing costs are paid
While Universal Credit pays the housing costs entitlement, the amount a tenant gets will not always cover all of their rent. The tenant will need to pay the rest to landlord.
The responsibility for housing costs or rent remains with the tenant and they should be the landlord’s first point of contact.
Paying housing costs to landlord
If your tenant gets Universal Credit, Universal Credit will phone you to ask for your bank details to make sure your tenant’s housing costs are paid to you as quickly as possible.
You can also give your bank details, or change your bank details by completing the secure online form Set up a direct payment of a tenants housing costs to a landlord.
For each tenant, you should include a reference number with up to 16 characters. You can use digits and letters. The reference number will identify each payment you receive for a tenant.
If a tenant’s landlord changes, the tenant will report this to Universal Credit as a change of circumstances. Universal Credit will then contact the new landlord to get their bank details.
Paying housing costs to tenant
Tenants can ask for their housing costs to be paid to them if they meet certain criteria. You will need to make arrangements with your tenant to agree how they will pay their rent to you.
If your tenant gets Universal Credit, they cannot ask to get their housing costs amount paid to them when:
- they have rent arrears
- they are repaying rent arrears
- they are repaying a benefit overpayment or budgeting loan
- they have a Social Fund debt
- they have a Discretionary Support debt
- they live in a hostel, refuge or residential care
- the Universal Credit payment is split between two members of the household
If any of these apply, your tenant’s housing costs will be paid to you.
Six months after a tenant has repaid rent they owe you, they can ask for their housing costs to be paid to them again.
Tenant rent arrears
If your tenant gets their housing costs amount paid to themselves but they are not paying their rent, you can apply online to Set up a direct payment of a tenant's housing costs to a landlord
To apply for a rent arrears deduction, you'll need to complete a rent arrears form. For more information on arrears, go to: Universal Credit Third Party Payments Creditor/Supplier Handbook.
Tenant has issue with rent payments
You should attempt to resolve any rent payment issues directly with your tenant.
If your tenant has a query about housing costs they can contact Universal Credit:
- through their online journal Sign in to your Universal Credit account, or
- by calling the Universal Credit Service Centre Contact Universal Credit
Universal Credit overpayments to landlord
If an overpayment of Universal Credit is made to a landlord, they are responsible for repayment even if the overpayment is not the landlord’s fault.
Universal Credit will tell a landlord if an overpayment was made. Legal action can be taken to get this amount from the landlord.
Repaying an overpayment
The Department’s Debt Management team will contact landlords directly to inform them of the ways to repay the overpayment.
The available methods of payment for landlords are Cheque, BACS transfer or Bank Standing Order instalments.
Payment made to
Payment of housing costs made direct to landlord and the overpayment is due to a change of address.
Overpayment is recoverable from the landlord unless the overpayment is a result of misrepresentation or failure to disclose.
Payment of housing costs made direct to landlord and the overpayment is a result of a misrepresentation or failure to disclose.
Overpayment is recoverable from person(s) who failed to disclose or misrepresented.
Payment of housing costs made direct to landlord and payment made in excess of rent.
Overpayment is recoverable from the landlord only.
There is no time limit for contacting landlords to recover an overpayment.
Tenants moved to Universal Credit from other benefits
If your tenant moves to Universal Credit from any of the following benefits they will continue to be paid that benefit for 2 weeks after they claim Universal Credit:
- Jobseeker’ Allowance (income-based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
- Income Support
If a tenant was getting Housing Benefit just before they claimed Universal Credit, they may be entitled to an extra two weeks’ Housing Benefit when they first claim Universal Credit. It will be paid to whoever was receiving the Housing Benefit payments, usually the tenant’s landlord.
If your tenant has rent arrears, you can use this extra money to pay towards these arrears. If your tenant has no arrears they can ask you for this money (or the amount remaining after you use the extra money to pay off their rent arrears).
For support on budgeting or housing, tenants on Universal Credit can visit any independent advice office or contact:
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